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COUNTRY ROAD

New York Times, Sunday, October 20, 2013

Author:
Elizabeth C. Gorski
Editor:
Will Shortz
TotalDebutLatestCollabs
2197/31/19952/23/20160
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6716363439243
ScrabbleRebusCirclePangram
1.5430225
Elizabeth C. Gorski

This puzzle:

Rows: 23, Columns: 23 Words: 170, Blocks: 93 Missing: {Q} Spans: 4 Grid has mirror symmetry. This is puzzle # 206 for Ms. Gorski. NYT links: Across Lite PDF
Elizabeth C. Gorski notes:
Imagine standing in Times Square and then walking west, through 14 states... all the way to San Francisco's Lincoln Park. Unimaginable? Not if you follow the Lincoln Highway. Until a few years ago, I ... read more

Imagine standing in Times Square and then walking west, through 14 states... all the way to San Francisco's Lincoln Park. Unimaginable? Not if you follow the Lincoln Highway.

Until a few years ago, I never realized that Times Square was the starting point of one of our nation's first coast-to-coast road — the Lincoln Highway. Nicknamed "Main Street Across America," it predates Washington D.C.'s Lincoln Memorial as a major memorial to President Lincoln.

The possibility of making a puzzle came about when MAINSTREET ACROSS AMERICA revealed itself as a 23-letter phrase (cue the "tingling feeling"). Road trip! I rarely make 23x puzzles, but took a chance on this one. Bottom line — a puzzle about a coast-to-coast, 14-state American highway had to be big, wide open and travel-worthy. The 23x23 landscape seemed perfect.

Keeping with the "big" theme, I was elated to work with four 23-letter entries sweeping across the grid in a coast-to-coast pattern. The 14 state abbreviations correspond to their approximate locations on a U.S. map (as close as one can get in a 529-square grid). Think abstract art.

Luckily, those big, 23-letter entries yield dividends: (a) a low-word count (170) and (b) a low three-letter-word count (30). These stats offer a chance to make an interesting fill, a make-or-break feature of any themed puzzle (I can't stand boring puzzle fills, and will rewrite a puzzle to within an inch of its life, if need be).

The puzzle bottom (148-A) revealed a directional twist (somewhat of an afterthought) — a way to simulate the direction of the Lincoln Highway as one travels from east to west coast. It's a sneaky surprise — like finding icing at the bottom of a cupcake. I hope you enjoyed today's cupcake-y road trip across the grid!

Will Shortz notes:
I accepted this puzzle by Liz in 2009 — holding it for four years until the Lincoln Highway Centennial, which occurs this month. Fortunately, most accepted puzzles don't have so long a wait. Next ... read more

I accepted this puzzle by Liz in 2009 — holding it for four years until the Lincoln Highway Centennial, which occurs this month. Fortunately, most accepted puzzles don't have so long a wait. Next Sunday's puzzle, for example, took less than a week from acceptance to scheduling. Many factors affect the wait (or lack of one).

Jeff Chen notes:
A tribute puzzle today, one which taught me something, filling in one of the many gaps in my sad knowledge of history and geography. Being an inveterate West-coaster, I had never heard of the LINCOLN ... read more

A tribute puzzle today, one which taught me something, filling in one of the many gaps in my sad knowledge of history and geography. Being an inveterate West-coaster, I had never heard of the LINCOLN HIGHWAY, but after looking it up I cringed at how famous it was. Not knowing it seems a bit like mixing up Wyoming and Wisconsin (hey, I was tired!).

As with most of Liz's puzzles, neat visual. I was vaguely aware that the circled pairs were all states, but after finishing and going to Google, I sat back, impressed that the placement actually reflected the path of the Lincoln Highway. Pretty cool!

Note her use of L-R (or mirror) symmetry. Liz is one of the few constructors who uses L-R symmetry regularly, and I love seeing it. Yes, traditionally xws have called for rotational symmetry because there's an inherent elegance and beauty to the symmetry, but I'm glad Will and others have adopted the stance that L-R symmetry is just as elegant. Note how this allows Liz to place LINCOLN / HIGHWAY wherever she wants, instead of it being in the middle row the grid, as would be required in a puzzle with traditionally symmetry (if she wanted to keep those answers together). The fact that she can offset LINCOLN / HIGHWAY allows her to 1.) place them toward the bottom to give them more impact as a revealer, and 2.) keep them out of the way of the 13 states, making for a much easier fill.

Liz has used L-R symmetry to come up with some of the most visually stunning puzzles during the Shortz era. Her holiday puzzles are always a treat, this gingerbread man one was particularly memorable for me.

Interesting to note that there has only been one instance of up-down symmetry in the Shortz era. I've sent Will a handful of up-down symmetry puzzles, and he's politely said that they just look too strange. It took me a while to figure out why that was, but now it makes a great deal of sense: if human eyes were arranged one atop the other, up-down symmetry would be commonplace. Sadly, the tyranny of left-right human eye placement may take some time to overcome.

(shakes fist at the universe)

Will's note this past week regarding how far fill has come in the past four years might be relevant today. There are so many constraints in the grid, what with four 23-letter grid spanners plus LINCOLN HIGHWAY and 13 states, which makes the construction inherently very difficult. There were enough entries like TREN, A DATE, CCCL, AGLET, NISI, EAR TO, ONE I etc. that it bogged down my solve a little. Overall though, always a treat to see Liz's byline at the top of a puzzle.

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© 2013, The New York TimesNo. 1020 ( 23,357 )
Across
1
In tandem : ASATEAM
8
Decorative shoe features : TOECAPS
15
Like some feet and envelopes : STAMPED
22
Bill : INVOICE
23
It's often swiped by a shopaholic : ATMCARD
24
Go from A to B? : DOWORSE
25
Nickname for the 122-/124-Across : MAINSTREETACROSSAMERICA
28
Stops: Abbr. : STAS
29
Jazz/blues singer Cassidy : EVA
30
Shoelace tip : AGLET
31
Barely make, with "out" : EKE
32
"___ two minds" : IMOF
33
___ Bell (Anne Brontë pseudonym) : ACTON
35
Like eggs in eggnog : RAW
37
Class for some immigrants, for short : ESL
39
Jump back, maybe : START
40
With 105-Across, historical significance of the 122-/124-Across : THEFIRSTMAJORMEMORIALTO
48
It's ENE of Fiji : SAMOA
49
"Wheel of Fortune" buy : ANE
50
Declined : WANED
51
It fits all, sometimes : ONESIZE
55
Up on things : TUNEDIN
58
Part of a page of Google results : ADSPACE
63
1796 Napoleon battle site : LODI
64
Freight carrier: Abbr. : RWY
66
Young and Sedaka : NEILS
67
Italian possessive : MIO
68
Von Furstenberg of fashion : EGON
69
"___ luck!" : LOTSA
71
European capital once behind the Iron Curtain : SOFIA
73
Comic finisher : INKER
75
Ocean : BRINY
76
Item dropped by Wile E. Coyote : ANVIL
77
Times Square flasher? : NEON
78
"So nice!" : OOOH
79
Masked warrior : NINJA
80
Beer belly : GUT
83
Chemistry suffix : ENE
84
Ultimate : NTH
85
Day ___ : SPA
87
They really click : CASTANETS
92
It may be corrected with magnification : LOWVISION
98
Piece at the Met : ARIA
99
El Al destination: Abbr. : ISR
100
German cry : ACH
103
Inherit : GET
104
Italian writer Vittorini : ELIO
105
122-Across : THESIXTEENTHUSPRESIDENT
112
Like most houses : EAVED
113
Expensive patio material : SLATETILE
114
Comment before "Bitte schön" : DANKE
115
Components of fatty tissues : STEROLS
118
Bit of jive : LIE
119
French wine classification : CRU
120
It may leave you weak in the knees : ILLNESS
122
With 124-Across, dedicated in October 1913, project represented by the 13 pairs of circled letters : LINCOLN
124
See 122-Across : HIGHWAY
126
Captain : HEAD
130
___-turn : NOU
131
"Alley ___" : OOP
132
Sports org. headquartered in Indianapolis : NCAA
136
Wearing clothes fit for a queen? : INDRAG
138
Concerned : APPLIEDTO
146
Kindle downloads : EBOOKS
148
Follows the east-west route of the 122-/124-Across? : TRAVELSFROMCOASTTOCOAST
151
Doll : CUTIE
152
Tropicana grove : ORANGETREES
153
Knight's trait : VALOR
154
Follows : HEEDS
155
Sauce brand : MOTTS
156
___ of time : SANDS
157
Kind of question : YESNO
Down
1
Targets : AIMSAT
2
Weightlifting move : SNATCH
3
Hedgehop, e.g. : AVIATE
4
Many, many : TONSOF
5
Sue Grafton's "___ for Evidence" : EIS
6
"Tartuffe" segment : ACTE
7
TV's Griffin : MERV
8
___ kwon do : TAE
9
Tulip festival city : OTTAWA
10
Web periodical : EMAG
11
Cicero's 350 : CCCL
12
Rhine tributary : AARE
13
For now, for short : PROTEM
14
Campus political grp. : SDS
15
Mt. Rushmore's home: Abbr. : SDAK
16
Heavy volume : TOME
17
Bowl over : AWE
18
Sony co-founder Akio : MORITA
19
Elementary : PRIMAL
20
Kind of service : ESCORT
21
Intentionally disregarding : DEAFTO
26
Keep one's ___ the ground : EARTO
27
Historic march site : SELMA
34
Vivaldi's "___ Dominus" : NISI
36
Latin 101 verb : AMAT
38
In stitches : SEWN
39
Caesar and others : SIDS
41
Motorola phone : RAZR
42
Eurasian ducks : SMEWS
43
Funny Garofalo : JANEANE
44
"You're the ___ Love" : ONEI
45
Figure on the Scottish coat of arms : REDLION
46
Radio booth sign : ONAIR
47
Make over : REDO
51
Pueblo pot : OLLA
52
Whistle time? : NOON
53
1999 Ron Howard film : EDTV
54
"Of course, Jorge!" : SISI
56
Group in a striking photo? : UNION
57
"This ___ a test" : ISNOT
59
Prefix with -scope : PERI
60
Not fer : AGIN
61
Or or nor: Abbr. : CONJ
62
"May It Be" singer, 2001 : ENYA
65
Over there : YON
67
"So-so" : MEH
70
Sea grass, e.g. : ALGA
72
Charges : FEES
74
1980s-'90s German leader Helmut : KOHL
75
___ B'rith : BNAI
81
Bell Labs system : UNIX
82
Try : TEST
85
Popeye's ___' Pea : SWEE
86
Sarge's charges: Abbr. : PVTS
87
Phoebe of "Gremlins" : CATES
88
Buddhist who has attained nirvana : ARHAT
89
What's a strain to cook with? : SIEVE
90
Stun with a gun : TASER
91
Very, in Vichy : TRES
93
Gruesome sort : OGRE
94
Body type : SEDAN
95
Actress Graff : ILENE
96
Sounds from pens : OINKS
97
Jottings : NOTES
100
When some local news comes on : ATTEN
101
Revolutionary figure : CHE
102
China cupboard : HUTCH
106
Sacred cow : IDOL
107
London greeting : ELLO
108
Something to file : NAIL
109
iPhone voice : SIRI
110
Promote : PLUG
111
Without thinking : IDLY
116
Jargon : LINGO
117
___-Off (windshield cover) : SNO
120
1945 battle site, for short : IWO
121
Big flap in 1970s fashion? : LAPEL
123
Dos y dos : CUATRO
125
Like cattle and reindeer : HOOFED
126
Snag : HITCH
127
Follow : ENSUE
128
"It's ___!" : ADATE
129
Motorola phone : DROID
132
Stars bursting in air? : NOVAE
133
Frosty's eyes : COALS
134
Buckeye city : AKRON
135
A.L. West player : ASTRO
137
Some war heroes : ACES
139
Exam for jrs. : PSAT
140
Hot dog breath? : PANT
141
Cabin material : LOGS
142
Slay, in slang : ICE
143
CPR experts : EMTS
144
TV girl with a talking map : DORA
145
Mexican transportación : TREN
147
___ of beauties : BEVY
149
Novelist Clancy : TOM
150
Draft org. : SSS

Answer summary: 9 unique to this puzzle, 3 debuted here and reused later, 2 unique to Shortz Era but used previously.

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